Monday, July 25, 2011

Hattiesburg | After 70 years, reader says goodbye

In an e-mail yesterday, Hattiesburg American reader Milton Waldoff told me the following:

This morning (Sunday, July 24, 2011) I did not get my local Sunday morning newspaper, the Hattiesburg American. This happens so very frequently, I'm on a first name basis with the Circulation Department -- so frequently that, earlier this week, I e-mailed the General Manager and was told delivery of the American is "contracted out!"

Her statement, as copied and pasted:

"Thanks so much for taking the time to email me with your concerns about the Hattiesburg American’s delivery. As General Manager, I am ultimately responsible for all operations here at the newspaper. I agree 100% that our delivery service is not what it should be. About three years ago, the Hattiesburg American made the decision to contract out the delivery of the newspaper. We now have contracts with three delivery Agents responsible for the delivery of the Hattiesburg American, The Clarion Ledger and the USA Today. This decision has been beneficial in many ways but has made it much harder for me to manage the delivery process. Please know that I am working diligently to improve our service."

Like thousands of other locals, I have elected to not renew my subscription when it expires in eight or so weeks. Being a life-long resident of Hattiesburg, Miss., I have read the paper all my life. As a child in the 1930's we -- my older sister and younger brother -- were required to read the American and be able to discuss items published in the American over dinner. My father came to Hattiesburg in 1924, my mother in 1925. They insisted on our being aware of what was happening. They insisted that we all get good educations, sending us out of state to universities, my brother to Europe. I have always looked forward to reading newspapers. When traveling, I always pick up USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and very often local papers. It is disgusting to me that over the past four or five years too often the American has not been delivered. And let me say, I live in the city limits in a middle-class subdivision on a lake with paved streets and street lights within 5 to 10 minutes from two universities.

For 70 years, our family owned and operated a business that regularly advertised in the American. Some years we were the single largest advertiser. The Newspaper Advertising Bureau (NAB) on a number of occasions selected Waldoff's advertising as some of the best in the United States, awarding us plaques, trophies, certificates at conferences in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Currently I do consulting for retail stores nationally and purchase advertising for clients. Often, we use newspaper where the demographics, circulation and coverage merits.

Having said that, it is not surprising newspaper advertising sales are down on a local and national level for Gannett. I understand the dramatic impact the weak economy, Internet and television have had on the industry. Regardless, when the product cannot be delivered to those of us who want to receive their local paper, pay for their subscription in advance and still don't receive the paper -- the question is not what can be done to increase advertising sales, rather it is how soon before the paper stops publishing?

It will!

If I were a stockholder in Gannett, I'd bail out when the market opens tomorrow morning; there is no potential upside for a company that does not deliver its product to the consumer.

Goodbye Gannett!

Goodbye Hattiesburg American!


Milton Waldoff
Waldoff Group
Hattiesburg, Miss.

[Image: recent screenshot from the American's homepage]


  1. "This decision has been beneficial in many ways but has made it much harder for me to manage the delivery process."

    Translation: "This decision has made it possible for executives to enjoy huge bonuses, but it has f**ked up the most basic piece of the business -- getting the product to consumers."

  2. If Hattiesburg would hire 15 vice presidents, I bet they could figure out how to get Milton's paper to him!

  3. Hattiesburg, is not the only Gannett's city having delivery problems.

  4. One less paper to print means more savings on print costs...bonuses for everyone at corporate. See, it's all good.

  5. The saddest part of this story is that Corporate will read this and frankly, not give a damn.

  6. Hattiesburg is not the only paper which has gotten comments like this. In a certain area of Wisconsin, between non-delivery of papers, not being able to reach anyone in customer service and even after talking to someone in customer service, one still doesn't get a paper, it's beyond ridiculous.

  7. Hattieburg and most likely the Wisconsin paper referenced by 10:56 a.m. are NT-31s. Remember, our company's philosophy for our smaller papers is not just to cut muscle and bone, but then to drain the body of its blood and, in its weakened state, prop it up for all to see and pretend nothing is wrong.

  8. Before Gannett bought the Indianapolis Star, I remember running newsroom copies of the paper out to customers on a Saturdays, because they couldn't get hold of circulation. After the Gannett purchase, one of the nightly assignments for copy messengers was to drive bulldog edition to the managing editor, assistant managing editor and publisher. Once in a while the copy messenger would be late or would forget, and they would catch hell...

  9. The Wisconsin paper referenced in 10:56 is one of the T-31s.

  10. A strategy to weaken these small community newspapers will doom many T-31 Gannett properties. On the upside, there are opportunities for savvy folks laid off to move in and start a business. Would serve Gannett right, but it's a shame that small, once outstanding papers with high brand identity have to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate stupidity.

    Hattiesburg was once a vibrant newspaper for its size. The move to outsourcing circulation was a wreck from the beginning there and elsewhere. There are only so many times you can lie to a customer that service will get better before even longstanding allegiances wither. It's a deceptive practice to promise something there is no way you can deliver. Kudos to the GM for at least trying to be honest, which is more than you usually get at higher Gannett levels.

  11. I remember when I tried in vain to get my subscription stopped. It took about four month of phone calls, then they had the audacity to send me a bill.

  12. Have had similar issues in my town with delivery. Complaint calls go to an out-of-town service center where you have to be on hold for at least 15 minutes before anyone talks to you. And then they pronounce the name of your city incorrectly -- it's "Soo Falls" not "See-ox Falls."

    I wouldn't be getting the paper if I wasn't a former news reporter.

  13. The Hattiesburg American use to be the only paper in town to advertise with. Now there are numerous ways to reach people.
    One problem w/The American's local news stories --usually had some of the info wrong.

  14. I'm pretty sure Des Moines hasn't outsourced and they even have delivery problems. I'm a Friday-Sunday subscriber and I didn't set a single paper two weeks ago. Last week I only got Sunday's edition. And, that stupid automated phone system hung up on my three times when I tried to call and get it corrected.

  15. Sell it to locals.

  16. This gentleman's letter makes me want to cry. Someone who WANTS TO PAY/SUBSCRIBE and is foiled at every turn. Gannett really has fallen into the abyss.

  17. This is not a Gannett problem, it is an industry problem. As the industry heads towards digital we continue to invest in digital and cut from te print.....the print that still generates the lionshare of our revenue.
    In would love to see us (the industry) start charging more payroll and other expenses to the digital side to get a true picture of how well digital is doing for us.
    As the industry continues to cut circulation you will see more of this. Most newspapers do not even have a seasoned Circulator anymore, service is worse then ever and just getting worse and we are cutting sales dollars that bring in revenue.

  18. The delivery situation is exactly the same in Shreveport. I too am ready to cancel a decades-old subscription. It truly is sad.

  19. When I worked in a newsroom, I always appreciated the circulation director and staff. On a big story, they would be creating rack cards; during big weather events they would go out themselves to restock extra papers; sometimes on a Sunday, they would go to a little old lady's house just to giver her a paper that a carrier missed.

    They loved newspapering and it was hard, grimy work And they're just about all gone.


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